By Thomas DeVere Wolsey
Hey, who are you calling “lazy?” That’s what I thought when I first came upon the phrase, “Lazy User Model.” In this case, being lazy is not a value statement or judgment but rather a phenomenon that explains certain behaviors, particularly when technology is involved, that may permit the user to get on with the business of learning. Let’s explore that a little.
What is the Lazy User Model?
Remember the last time you wanted to upgrade your cell phone? One of the factors you likely considered was how much time you would need to spend to learn the features and affordances of your new phone. If you chose a phone that worked much as your old phone did, you demonstrated the principle of the Lazy User Model (Tétard & Collan opens as PDF, 2009). The theorists postulate that users attempting to solve a problem, such as obtain information or carry out a task, are limited in some ways and have a set of possible solutions against which to weigh the need and the limitations. They believe that users typically choose the solution that results in the least cost to them and still solves the problem. That is why they call the theory the “Lazy” User Model. You can see that in this case, being lazy may save on the overall investment of time, money, or other resources. Here is what that looks like in graphic form.
Plug your need for a new cell phone into the graphic, and you will see how being lazy works for you. You need a new cell phone. The state that limits you includes the choice of phones your cell phone provider offers, your knowledge of the phone you already have and when your current plan expires allowing you to select a new phone. Your possible solutions (let’s say) include an iPhone and an Android. The least cost or lazy option for you is the type of phone you already have because you already know how to use most of the features. The cost in terms of time spent learning the features of the phone outweigh the choice to adopt (or “switch” as Tétard & Collan, 2009 call the action) the possibility of choosing a new brand of phone.
Being Lazy in Class
What does being lazy look like in class? More important, why would you want to allow your students to be lazy? In our present case, let’s change the title of the model from Lazy User to Lazy Classroom.
Here is a scenario from a project Dana, Linda, and I reported on Literacy Beat recently (here and here). We asked a group of fifth graders to learn science vocabulary through the Vocabulary Self-Collection Strategy Plus (VSS+) model. The students needed to solve the problem of creating the VSS+ entry by selecting images, creating an audio file, and writing a definition, among other things.
The need or problem: Create a VSS+ entry.
The state that creates the limitations: Use the tools assigned and that are available in the school computer lab. The students were further limited by the amount of time they had to complete the project before they were required to submit it.
The set of possible solutions thus includes choosing Thinglink or PowerPoint. Most of the students were familiar with PowerPoint but hadn’t used it, and none of the students were familiar at all with Thinglink.
The lowest cost or “lazy” solution for most students turned out to be PowerPoint because most of the students were familiar with the software. Some students did try Thinglink and created successful VSS+ entries because they were intrigued with the tool, and a few others started with Thinglink but switched back to the more familiar tool after experimenting with it.
What are the Implications for the Lazy Classroom?
There are several things we might take away from the Lazy Student Model.
- Being lazy can be a time saver that allows the students to concentrate on the task and not on the tool.
- Being lazy might mean that students will not choose the best technology because they chose the tool they know instead of the best one for the task.
- If students need to learn how to use a new-to-them technology, the will need support. Support could include direct instruction, a series of help or job aids, or access to a peer expert who is knowledgeable about the tool. Indeed, in the VSS+ project, we purposefully chose some students to become experts in working with sound files, selecting graphics, or designing graphic images using the drawing tools in PowerPoint, for example. Then, when other students needed assistance, we teachers directed the students to their expert peers to teach them what they needed to know just in time to put the technology to work.
What other implications for the Lazy Classroom Model occur to you? Are there examples you would like to share? Please use the comments section to post your thoughts.
Learn more about the Lazy User Model at http://lazyusermodel.org/
Tétard, F. & Collan, M. (2009). Lazy User Theory: A Dynamic Model to Understand User Selection of Products and Services. Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences – 2009. Retrieved from https://www.computer.org/csdl/proceedings/hicss/2009/3450/00/09-13-01.pdf